September 28, 2020

To review the new gravel-focused Terra Powerstrap x4 shoes from fi’zi:k, I wanted to make sure they were fairly tested across a range of real-world riding conditions and scenarios – not just a quick spin and a photoshoot. With that, here is my in-depth review of the Terra X4 shoes following 5 months of use and abuse (from October 2019 to February 2020).

A Gravel-Focused Shoe.

There can be no doubt that gravel riding (or grinding) is here to stay. Exploring routes beyond the paved road continues to grow in popularity each year; particularly here in the US where recently, several World Tour Pro riders have decided to hang up their road racing shoes and step into the realm of gravel-dedicated races and events. To be clear, these elite professional riders can most definitely hang in the pro peloton (in fact many have turned down lucrative team contracts) - they just prefer the course of the gravel scene and the accompanying “vibe”.

This heady vibe is hard to describe but I guarantee you’ve already experienced it. For me, it was as an eight-year-old kid, ripping around on my Raleigh Burner BMX, cutting through the woods and across open farmlands back home in Yorkshire. It’s those same joyful feelings that make me smile when blasting along fire roads, winding down single-track and cranking up canyon trails here in Southern California. Anything that enhances the gravel experience is good news. That’s where the fi’zi:k Terra Powerstrap X4 gravel shoes come into play.

First impressions.

Straight out of the box, the refined form and upper construction looks highly appealing. The two bold black straps combined with the subtle sage green upper and caramel rubber sole creates a unique aesthetic that aligns with the nature of gravel riding. 

First ride.

I opted to swap out my Crank Brothers Egg Beater pedals and went with the Candy 7s to provide a broader platform for power transfer. The Terra X4s have a co-molded rubber and nylon sole. I was expecting they would flex much more than my other carbon sole shoes, but I was pleasantly surprised by how responsive the power transfer was. The X4 sole provides the right combination of stiffness and flex for all-day riding comfort both in and out of the saddle.  

Café life.

If you ever ride with our group, it’s common practice to include a café stop, so it’s very important that one can easily transition from the trails to the café with style and panache. The X4s are super comfortable to walk in and look great off the bike too. The rubber sole is grippy and while not the most aggressive tread, works perfectly in most conditions outside of the muddiest cyclocross course.

The Sludge-fest.

When it comes to extreme conditions, far away from the warm comforts of a Corsa Pro Mulholland espresso, these shoes are up for the challenge. I ventured out on a particularly rainy December day along a section of Mulholland Drive where the paved road ends and the real adventures begin. Aptly named Dirt Mulholland, the recent downpour had stirred it into a slick mess of heavy mud and peanut butter sludge – perfect!

After just a few miles of spinning in the mud, fishtailing down slick descents and looking like a stand-in for Swamp Thing, the X4s had been subjected to all types of sand, grit, road spray and crud. Fortunately, I didn’t think too much about them - my feet remained dry and comfortable for the entire 60mile out and back ride.

The power-strap system performs very well. Each strap wraps over and around the foot, evenly distributing tension just where you need it. Initially, I was skeptical about the effectiveness of the Velcro system but now I’m convinced and have no concerns. I have a pair of Shimano XC9s and love the Boa system; the dials allow me to make micro adjustments on the fly. That’s a trickier procedure with the Terra Powerstrap system but not impossible. To be fair, I consider the XC9s to be more cyclocross race oriented. The X4s on the other hand, work perfectly for all-day gravel riding comfort.

The Cleanup.

The simple surfaces and panels of the X4s mean that dirt doesn’t get stuck in overly fussy details or intricate seams; just a simple spray and wipe down, they are good to go.

Summary.

PROS:

  • Great for all-day riding comfort.

  • Powerstrap system is both comfortable and secure.

  • Looks good on and off the bike. Stylish but understated.

  • Holds up well to extreme weather conditions.

  • Easy to clean and rinse off.

  • Great value – feels better than other shoes that are double the price

CONS:

  • Heel cup fit is more relaxed than a dedicated race shoe – but this provides more comfort.

  • Powerstrap System is not as easy to adjust while riding – compared to Boa system.

The fi’zi:k Terra Powerstrap X4s are now my go-to gravel shoe. They provide the perfect combination of performance and comfort both on and off the bike. From café stops to the most extreme conditions, the X4s are easy to clean and maintain - plus they look and feel great. With the introduction of more gravel-focused events here in the US, I look forward to lining up and getting these shoes dirty again very soon.




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